Neil Gaiman’s 50th

Neil’s 50th birthday party was held at New Orleans’ Rosy’s Jazz Hall, and I’d guess there were about 150 invited guests. Ellen and I were brought there from our hotel, along with about 10 others, in one of those plush vans with cushy leather bench seats and black-curtained windows that I imagine are used to transport rock bands to concert venues, which was fun, though we couldn’t see much of where we were going. Once at Rosy’s we were given named lanyard badges by Cat Mihos, one of Neil’s assistants, and set free to mingle. Above is the main room with a large bar on one side and a stage for music on the other, tables between, and buffet food catered by Green Goddess of the French Quarter on one side. The food was quite good, and there was plenty of vegetarian choices for Ellen, which haven’t been easy to find here generally. We arrived a bit after 6 PM.

There were about 20 people there that I knew from comics, like former DC editor Alisa Kwitney, and DC’s Karen Berger and Richard Bruning, above. I talked to them, as well as Paul Levitz, Jackie Estrada, Batton Lash, Charles Vess (and his wife Karen), Michael Zulli, Larry Marder, Bob Schreck, Chip Kidd, Denis Kitchen and I’m sure others I’m forgetting at the moment. There were also groups of people there from the book publishing world, as well as authors, friends from England, the US, and perhaps elsewhere.

Here’s the man of the hour, sporting a fine new top hat, bought for him by Amanda earlier that day. As Neil explained, his plan for this party was to gather friends from all different areas of his life and introduce them to each other. He made a point of introducing us to Sharon Stiteler, who helps manage his honeybee hives, because she, Ellen and I are “bird people,” as he put it. And we enjoyed talking to Sharon about birding in different places, including Cape May. We met and talked to a few other folks we hadn’t met before, but as is usually the case with these things, people tended to engage those they already knew mostly. It was a great party, all the same.

In addition to the main room, which was the noisiest, there was an outer couryard, with overlooking balconies…

…and an outside patio, the quietest and most appealing area to us, but unfortunately also the smoking area, so we didn’t spend too much time there. One sad bit of news was that Scott McCloud, who we’d run into on the street earlier in the day, hadn’t made the party, he was in the hospital with an as yet undiagnosed but painful internal problem, as we heard from his wife Ivy, who came for a while to explain. We wished Scott well and a speedy recovery. We hope to hear news of him soon. I met Amanda Palmer, Neil’s fiancé, briefly on the patio, but she was rushing about as busily as Neil, and I’m sure many of the guests were her friend invites, too.

About 9 PM Neil got on the stage to thank everyone, and was given a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to You” by the crowd, with some pretty good harmony. He said the one flaw in his party plan was that he wanted to be part of every conversation and couldn’t. I expect he talked to everyone at some point, though.

Then the band came on, and I’m afraid I didn’t catch their name. It was an eclectic group, with the lead vocalist on accordion, a stand-up base, drums, and four horn/woodwind players. The sound was a bluesy/zydeco sort of mix, and I liked it, the only problem being the vocalist was not miked well, and we couldn’t understand a word of what he sang.

The party was to midnight, but we left at 10:30, along with about 20 others on a larger bus this time. It was fun, of course it would have been nice to talk to Neil more, but we’ll have another chance today at brunch with some of the same folks. We’ll see how that goes. A nice evening all around, though.

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